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Down Home with ZZ Hill

Music Choice, an audio-only cable channel, is a great place to hear music. There are about 20 specialized channels and the programming is excellent. Unfortunately, the website doesn’t offer playlists, though Playlists.net seems to carry some of them – as well as many other great lists.

I heard ZZ Hill’s “Down Home Blues” on Music Choice while I was folding laundry. The song, according to Wikipedia, was written by George Jackson. In addition to being a great tune, it caught my ear because of the image that it creates. The disclaimer is that I am not sure that this is what really is what the song is about, but it seems to fit.

Huge numbers of African-Americans migrated from the south to the north during the middle part of the 20th century. The image I have is of two people far away from home – perhaps it is mid-winter and they are working at menial jobs in New York or Chicago – when they find each other at a party:

She said “Your party’s jumpin’ and ev’rybody’s havin’ a good time
Now you know what’s goin’ through my mind”

Their real priority isn’t what reasonably would be expected to happen (though that likely does as well). It is to be reminded of the way of life and people they left behind in the nice and warm south:

Down home blues (down home blues)
Down home blues (down home blues)
All she wanted to hear was some down home blues
All night long, ev’ry other record or two
She said “Take off those fast records
And let me hear some down home blues”

It’s not primarily about sex. It’s about reassurance and memories of a happier time.

Apparently, “Down Home Blues” was Hill’s second biggest song. The first was “Don’t Make Me Pay for His Mistakes.” Here is the first paragraph of his Wikipedia profile (which includes the helpful pronounciation guide for “ZZ,” which I guess is to make sure that Europeans don’t refer to him as Zed Zed Hill):

Arzell J. Hill (September 30, 1935 – April 27, 1984),[1] known as Z. Z. Hill (pronounced Zee Zee), was an American blues singer best known for his recordings in the 1970s and early 1980s, including his 1982 album for Malaco RecordsDown Home, which stayed on the Billboard soul album chart for nearly two years.[1] The track “Down Home Blues” has been called the best-known blues song of the 1980s.[2] According to the Texas State Historical Association, Hill “devised a combination of blues and contemporary soul styling and helped to restore the blues to modern black consciousness.”[3]

Below is “You Were Wrong.” Ironically, earlier on the same day I had heard Freddie King’s cover of the song.

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Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.